Cities and the future of agriculture and food security: A policy and programmatic roundtable

August 1, 2016 - Peter Richards, Tom Reardon, <>, Thom Jayne, Jim Oehmke, David Atwood

Richards, P., Reardon, T., Tschirley, D., Jayne, T., Oehmke, J., & Atwood, D. (2016). Cities and the future of agriculture and food security: A policy and programmatic roundtableFood Security8(4), 871-877.


In 2010 the United States government launched its Feed the Future Initiative to address global hunger and food insecurity. The initiative was designed to reduce poverty through agriculturally-led economic growth in developing countries, under the development hypothesis that higher incomes for the poor would lead to improved food security. USAID is now assessing the successes and challenges of this initiative, the changing demographic and economic landscapes in which it is operating, and the implications of these changes for agriculture and food security development programming. As part of this process, the Bureau for Food Security at USAID commissioned a series of expert level, technical roundtables. The first of these roundtables, Cities and the Future of Agriculture and Food Security, was held in Washington D.C. on March 30th, 2016.

The Cities and the Future of Agriculture and Food Security roundtable was inspired by recent and projected population shifts in urban areas in lower income countries (Seto et al. 2012; Potts 2013; UN 2015). Urbanization is reshaping what foods the global population consumes, and how food is sorted, processed, collected, and produced. These changes are happening fast. They also beg the question: how can society influence agricultural growth processes and food systems changes to optimize their contributions to societal goals including food security in both rural and urban areas? The Cities roundtable was designed to begin tackling the latter half of this question, and clarify  the relationships among agriculture, food systems, and urban food security. The purpose of the roundtable was not to provide definitive answers, but to deepen the technical dialog on rural-urban linkages which underlie food systems.

The Cities and the Future of Agriculture and Food Security roundtable convened approximately twenty-five expert level discussantsFootnote1 to participate in a series of discussions structured around four key themes related to agriculture, food systems, and urbanization. The themes included [1] the pace, drivers and extent of recent urban growth, and the potential of urban areas to serve as a driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation in low income countries; [2] the needs and opportunities associated with urban diets and diet transformation; [3] the role of secondary cities and rural towns in spurring and reflecting growth in rural areas and the development of agri-value chains; and [4] the implications of urbanization for the future of farming.

For each theme, discussions began with a set of targeted questions posed to a subset of experts, then a plenary discussion. All discussions were held under the spirit of the so-called Chatham House rules.


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